The government announced new guidance for people who are shielding, which came into effect on Monday 6 July.
The changes include being able to spend time with up to six people outside of your household and being able to form a 'support bubble' if you live alone or are a single parent. Within your support bubble, you can meet indoors as well as outdoors, be less than two metres apart and stay overnight.
If the infection rate ('R' number) continues to fall, it is possible that shielding will be paused at the end of July. As shielding is lifted, it's vital that you continue to follow strict social distancing to protect yourself from Covid-19.
Residents who are shielding
People with serious underlying health conditions who are most at risk of severe illness from coronavirus have been strongly advised by the government to self-isolate. However, significant changes to the shielding programme were announced on 22 June.
Next steps for those shielding
The government has now announced the next steps for those shielding, which include being able to spend time with more people outside your household and an indication of when shielding will end for people in England.
As shielding is lifted, it's vital that you continue to follow strict social distancing to protect yourself from coronavirus.
For those people shielding from 6 July
- you may meet in a group of up to six people outdoors, including people from different households. You must maintain social distancing at all times to protect yourself and others
- you no longer need to observe social distancing with other members of your household
- if you live alone or are a single parent, you may also form a 'support bubble' with one other household of any size. This means you can meet indoors as well as outdoors, be less than two metres apart and stay overnight.
From 1 August, the government will likely advise that shielding is paused, and instead you will be asked to strictly follow social distancing. It is strongly advised that you remain cautious and continue to stay at home where possible.
From 1 August
- you can go to work if you can't work from home, as long as the business is COVID-secure
- you can go outside to buy food, go to places of worships and for exercise
- children who are extremely vulnerable can return to school if they are in eligible year groups.
If you currently receive medicine deliveries and food boxes from the government, this will continue until the end of July. After this time, you will still be able to access priority supermarket delivery slots if you are signed up for this service. You can register online at gov.uk or call 0800 028 8327.
Support for vulnerable residents self-isolating
If you are shielding and are worried about any aspect of your physical or mental health, or have questions about the advice above, please call your GP practice. If you are having difficulties using a phone yourself ask a family member to call on your behalf.
Most appointments with a GP, nurse or other healthcare professional will now be via a phone call, and if you are advised that you do need to see a clinician in person, the NHS has put measures in place to make sure patients are seen safely.
You should also continue to attend appointments for ongoing treatment, unless you have been told not to.
Where can I get help?
Getting help with food and other necessities
If you are a Tower Hamlets resident shielding and need support with food shopping, collection of medication or Personal Protective Equipment, help is available through Tower Hamlet Council's dedicated phoneline. The phoneline can also be used for support with social isolation.
Getting help with healthcare and medication from home
Have someone else collect your medication from your local pharmacy for you, or contact your pharmacy to arrange for your medication to be delivered.
You can also visit nhs.uk/health-at-home/ to order you repeat prescriptions, and for more information about how to access NHS services online.
Getting help with getting to and from appointments
NHS Volunteer Responders can help with transport to home following a hospital discharge. You can get support by calling 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm.
Online self-isolation form
People who are shielding can also use our online self-isolation form to let Tower Hamlets Council know about support you need. Once you have completed the form, someone from the council contact you to discuss your needs.
Please remember shielding is working and it remains the most effective way of protecting yourself. Limit going outdoors as much as possible and be cautious when you do.
Wherever possible, keep in touch with people on the telephone, and online (if you have internet access).
Key websites and phone numbers